Introduction: Having a therapist observe patients engaged in Robotic Upper Limb Therapy (RULT) is considered inefficient use of a therapist’s time and skill. We therefore assessed the feasibility of (RULT) administered by a trained volunteer.
Methods: The Volunteer had two 30-minute training sessions by an Occupational Therapist (OT) rehearsing the MIT-Manus Planar Upper Limb Robotic software applications, proper positioning of the patient, and device shut-off and safety considerations. Initial patient sessions were supervised by the patient’s OT until the Volunteer demonstrated satisfactory performance. Inpatients on a Stroke Rehabilitation Unit were referred by their OT for RULT if they could initiate horizontal gravity-eliminated movement of the forearm and could follow one step commands. They were enrolled in 25 minute (RULT) sessions based upon the Volunteer’s availability from one to three half-days per week. Functional Independence Measures and Fugl-Meyer Scores were recorded at the time of Stroke Unit Admission by the OT unaware of (RULT) score results. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS version 11.5 and significance was attributed if p<0.05 using 2-tailed analyses.
Results: A total of 28 patients were enrolled in (RULT) but 2 were unable to participate due to pain in the affected upper limb. Participants had a mean of 3 ± 1.5 SD treatments each. Both the patients and volunteer considered their involvement in the program as worthwhile and meaningful. Admission MIT-Manus Adaptive-3 treatment software data showed that the Normalized Jerk+Line+Target (Norm JLT) Score [defined as (Jerk Score/237)+(Deviation from a Straight Line/13)+(Target Distance Error/14)] demonstrated a significant Spearman-rho Correlation with admission Functional Independence Measure (FIM) upper dressing r = -0.56 p=.003; and FIM grooming subscores r = -0.415, p=.035. The Norm JLT score also predicted change in Fugl-Meyer Upper Limb scores from admission to discharge r = - .788, p = 0.000.
Conclusions: Robotic Upper Limb Therapy by a trained Volunteer on an inpatient Stroke Rehabilitation Unit is easily administered, is viewed by the patients and volunteer as rewarding, and provides objective measures useful for assessing upper limb function and outcome.